Are school uniforms a good idea?

Okay, parents, there’s no more denying it: Back to school time is here, or will be here shortly, for our kiddos. Chances are high that you’ve started or even completed any back-to-school shopping you planned to do. On our list this year for my older son was a new backpack, shoes, some fall pants and long-sleeved shirts, and socks. For my younger son, who has the biggest wardrobe in the history of two-year-old boys thanks to hand-me-downs from his older bro and some adorable items from his grandmas, he needed only shoes and a fall jacket. I shopped the sales, took advantage of tax-free week, and only ended up spending around $200 total. So, you can imagine I was shocked to read that the average amount parents spend on back-to-school purchases is $635 per child. I immediately thought, “Well sure, maybe college-aged kids, if their parents are paying for textbooks….” but no!  Back-to-college spending averages out at $837 per child!

I asked around to some of my mom friends to see what their thoughts were. The consensus was that this number only seemed outrageous because our kids were all fairly young. Older kids are more concerned with brands and trends. My four year old is quite happy in his Oshkosh track pants and sale jeans ($7! I got Gap Kids jeans for seven dollars, folks!) and, so far, doesn’t care if the track pants are a “babyish” brand or if the jeans are “last year’s denim color”. Older kids do care. I don’t want to raise kids who think brands and looks and style are the be-all and end-all of life, but I also don’t want them to feel like outcasts. My mother may or may not have forced me to wear pleated Brooks Brothers khakis my freshman year of high school, and I may or may not still remember the horror of those pants (I’m talking to you, Mom!). 😉

However, this made me start to think about the fact that more CT schools are starting to require uniforms. When I was in school, uniforms in public schools weren’t that common. I suppose if you’d asked 15 year old me if I wanted a uniform, I would have protested about individuality and freedom of expression. But looking back, it might have been kind of nice. I spent a lot of time worrying about what I was wearing, how to afford better “cooler” brands, and fretting that people would notice that I was a maxxinista before that was a “thing.” Would uniforms have allowed me to be a little less stressed? Would they prevent some of the cliquey behavior that goes on in classrooms? Perhaps.

Does your child’s school have a uniform policy? Do you love it, hate it, or are you somewhere in the middle?


12 thoughts on “Are school uniforms a good idea?

  1. My kids don’t yet have uniforms. The Board of Ed. talks about it every year, but inevitably they answer “no.” My wish would be a very clear, strict dress code: khakis and “polos”. No school imprint, no uniform company over-charging. No fittings. When you shop: khakis and polos.

    1. Yes! Just plain polos and khakis would be perfect. I would never want to have to deal with a uniform company…but Land’s End, Old Navy, and Target seemed to have some great uniform-approved pieces (all khakis, navy blue pants, polos and dress shirts). I would LOVE that.

  2. I love the idea of school uniforms and sort of wish that our school adopted a uniform policy, but uniforms aren’t exactly inexpensive either – I think Old Navy, Gap, and Target all sell uniform khakis, but many of the schools require polo shirts embroidered with the public school logo ($$ and you need at least 3 shirts which are inevitably stained by the third week of school). Also, once kids reach middle school, just shoes alone are expensive because they are wearing adult shoes – just a trip to Sports Authority or Bob’s can set you back – and we’re not event talking the top of the line sneakers – these are basic sneaks that won’t fall apart in three weeks.

    1. I did just recently see how insanely expensive just normal sneakers are. Yikes. Then there are soccer cleats, baseball…the list goes on. I imagine the embroidered polos are not cheap. I like the idea (as Sharlene suggests!) for just a plain blue or white polo and khakis. That would be nice.

  3. My son was at a school that required uniforms for pre-k one year, and I found it to be a total hassle – and expensive – because I had to buy enough of the uniform components so that I did not need to do laundry everyday. There were days when we would need to dig through the hamper for the least dirty shirt even though we had several. And it meant that all of the clothes he’d gotten as gifts just sat in his drawers.

    As it stands now, he would not even let me buy him any new school clothes for fourth grade, though I imagine he will start to care about that stuff at some point. I can see some positives, particularly for older kids who might want to make more inappropriate clothing choices, but I am not convinced that it saves a lot of money for families – it definitely did not for ours.

    1. I hadn’t thought about the “gift” clothes issue! My boys get a lot of cute clothes from their grandmas…it would be sad to not wear those (except on weekends when they’re usually out getting muddy anyway!). Perhaps uniforms would be best in the older grades when that competition for brands (and inappropriate clothing) becomes more of an issue. I do think it is a little silly in a pre-k!

  4. Kids who wear uniforms still have to conform to the pressure of the right shoes. There’s no easy answer unfortunately.

    1. Oh they sure do. And fit of the khakis…and hair…and even make up and nails! But I do think it at least relieves a little stress on that front. Maybe?

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